Welcome to the Monday Night Football betting breakdown, where each week I’ll provide a detailed betting overview of the upcoming Monday Night Football game utilizing moneyline, points spread and projected total odds from DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook. I’ll also highlight at least one player- or game-based prop each week that I feel has profit potential.
The 2020 Week 15 MNF showcase is an AFC North battle between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The most recent game between the teams unfolded in Week 10 of this season, a 36-10 win for the Steelers in which Ben Roethlisberger threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh was able to limit then Cincy starter Joe Burrow to 213 yards and brought him down four times as well. Tee Higgins was the one Bengals offensive player to stand out, posting a 7-115-1 line to lead all pass catchers.
Each team checks into this divisional clash looking to rebound from a loss. The Steelers fell for the second consecutive time following 11 straight wins to open the season, dropping a 26-15 decision to the Bills on Sunday night. Meanwhile, the Bengals weren’t able to take advantage of a winnable matchup against the visiting Cowboys and former Cincy quarterback Andy Dalton, losing by a 30-7 margin.
All betting takes will be classified as a “pick” or “lean”, with considerations such as relevant injuries, past betting trends and recent performances of each team leading up to the game factoring in.
For more detailed information on this week’s matchup – including further game analysis, betting trends breakdown, betting tips specific to MNF, and a synopsis of the history of the line movement for the game, please see our Monday Night Football Betting Preview over at TheLines.
The Steelers offense has been in a constant state of frustration over the last two games, with a constant barrage of dropped passes and an anemic running game at the heart of their difficulties. Roethlisberger has also been turnover-prone dating all the way back since Week 11, throwing a total of five interceptions over the last four contests. However, this is a prototypical get-right spot. The Bengals defense is firmly ranked in the bottom half of the league in passing yards (250.6) and rushing yards (131.9) per game allowed. Even though James Conner is nursing a quadriceps injury, the state of Cincy’s defensive front is such that the likes of Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland and Jaylen Samuels could capitalize on the 4.89 RB yards per carry the Bengals have facilitated.
Roethlisberger and his receivers should also have plenty of opportunities to get their collective ship righted. Naturally, the likes of Diontae Johnson and Eric Ebron will have to demonstrate more reliable hands than they’ve shown in recent games. They’ll at least be set up for success against a Bengals pass defense that’s given up a 66.0 percent catch rate to both receivers and tight ends, and the trio of Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool posted a combined 19-249-4 line in the first meeting between these clubs.
The outlook is nowhere near as rosy for the Bengals, which faces a Steelers defense that’s admirably stood strong despite a couple of season-ending injuries to key players and the recent ineptitude of its offensive teammates. The Steelers boast an NFL-high 45 sacks and 17 interceptions, while current Cincinnati quarterbacks Brandon Allen and Ryan Finley have already taken a combined 14 sacks in the six combined games they’ve seen action in. It’s also worth noting Allen is currently dealing with a knee issue that’s likely to have him listed as questionable at best on the final injury report for this game.
The matchup on the ground is equally intimidating for a Bengals team that will continue without Joe Mixon (foot). The trio of Giovani Bernard, Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams can’t seem to get anything going on the ground, but the blame can’t be solely placed at their feet, literally – Cincy’s offensive line carries a No. 32 ranking in adjusted line yards (3.71) and a No. 31 slotting in RB yards (3.55) per carry facilitated. To make matters worse, the Steelers are at the other end of the spectrum defensively, allowing the second-lowest adjusted line yards (3.38) and sixth-lowest RB yards (3.84) tote.
The only issue here in terms of a moneyline bet is the eye-popping price you’ll have to pay. As of late Friday afternoon, the Steelers sit at -770 and -820 on DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook, respectively, to win this game straight up. I certainly believe they’ll prevail, but recommend passing on a straight moneyline wager due to the juice.
The Pick: PASS
MNF Point Spread
The Steelers are 8-5 (61.5 percent) against the spread this season, including 4-2 (66.7 percent) as a road team and 3-1 (75.0 percent) in division matchups.
The Bengals are 7-6 (53.8 percent) against the spread this season, including 4-2 (66.7 percent) as a home team and 2-2 in AFC North matchups.
In addition to my belief the Steelers will snap their two-game losing streak in this spot, I’m also leaning toward them covering this big number. Pittsburgh’s aforementioned issues on offense are mostly correctable, especially against this caliber of defense. The fact the Bengals are allowing an elevated 14.0 points per second half at home also supports the notion the Steelers could pull away in this one.
The Lean: Steelers -12.5 or better (spread as of Friday, 12/18)
MNF Over/Under Total
The Over is 4-7-2 (36.4 percent) in Pittsburgh’s games this season, including 1-4-1 (25.0 percent) in its road games and 1-2-1 (33.3 percent) in its division matchups.
Then, the Over is 5-7-1 (41.7 percent) in Cincinnati’s games this season, including 3-3 in its games as a home team and 2-1-1 (66.7 percent) against AFC North opponents.
While the Steelers’ offensive inconsistency has helped lead to the Over’s sub-standard record in their games, this is a number that’s gotten particularly low. Ten of Pittsburgh’s 13 games have finished over 40.5 points and the same is true for seven of Cincy’s contests thus far. Although it could get a bit dicey if the Bengals can’t contribute much on the scoreboard, I still lean toward the Steelers getting back on track enough for this number to be at least slightly exceeded.
The Lean: Over 40.5 points or better
Best MNF Prop Bet
James Washington Over 2.5 receptions (+120 or better)
This is an eye-catching prop at plus money, given Washington has enjoyed a bit of a bump in profile in the offense of late with an average of 42 snaps and 10 total targets over his last pair of contests. The speedster has a reputation for being the best contested-catch wideout on the Steelers, an especially valuable trait when considering the case of the dropsies that have recently plagued many of his teammates.
Additionally, Washington has at least three grabs in five contests thus far this season, and a big chunk of his success has come in the areas of the field Cincy’s defense has been weakest in. Over half (26) of Washington’s 48 targets and just under half (13) of his 28 receptions have come in either the short left or deep right passing window. Meanwhile, the Bengals have allowed a combined 101 receptions on 154 targets (65.6 percent completion rate) in those areas of the field, along with 11 touchdowns.